‘Peace dogs’ given to South Korea by Kim Jong Un rehomed at zoo

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A pair of dogs given to South Korea by Kim Jong Un four years ago have ended up at a zoo after a dispute over who should pay for their care.

The North Korean leader gave the two white Pungsan hunting dogs – an indigenous breed – to then-South Korean president Moon Jae-in following their summit talks in Pyongyang in 2018.

But Mr Moon gave up the dogs last month, citing a lack of financial support for the animals from the current conservative government led by President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The dogs, named Gomi and Songgang, were moved to a zoo run by a local government in the southern city of Gwangju last Friday after a temporary stay at a veterinary hospital in the south-eastern city of Daeju, zoo officials said.

With Gwangju Mayor Kang Gijung in attendance, on Monday the zoo showed off the dogs with their nametags around their necks as journalists and other visitors took photos.

“Gomi and Songgang are a symbol of peace and South-North Korean reconciliation and co-operation. We will raise them well like we cultivate a seed for peace,” Mr Kang said, according to his office.

Employees hold Pungsan hunting dogs Gomi, left, and Songgang at the animals’ new home in Gwangju, South Korea (Chun Jung-in/Yonhap/AP)

One, named Byeol, has been raised in Gwanju zoo since 2019. The remaining five are in other zoos and a public facility in South Korea.

Gwangju zoo officials said they will try to raise Byeol and her parents together, although they are currently being kept separately because they do not recognise each other.

Gomi and Songgang are officially state property. While in office, Mr Moon raised them at the presidential residence.

After leaving office in May, he was able to take them to his private home thanks to a change of law that allowed presidential gifts to be managed outside the Presidential Archives if they were animals or plants.

But in early November, Mr Moon’s office accused the Yoon government of refusing to cover the cost for the dogs’ food and veterinary care.

Mr Yoon’s office denied the accusation, saying it had never prevented Mr Moon from keeping the animals and that the discussions about providing financial support were still ongoing.

Mr Moon, a champion of reconciliation with North Korea, was credited with arranging now-dormant diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear programme, but also faced criticism that his engagement policy allowed Mr Kim to buy time and boost his country’s nuclear capability in the face of international sanctions.

Mr Yoon has accused Mr Moon’s engagement policy of “being submissive” to North Korea.

In 2000, Mr Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, gave another pair of Pungsan dogs to then-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung after their meeting in Pyongyang, the first inter-Korean summit since their division in 1948.

Liberal Kim Dae-jung gave two Jindo dogs – a breed native to a South Korean island – to Kim Jong Il. The North Korean dogs lived at a public zoo near Seoul before they died in 2013.

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